Indiana University Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences

Working Group

The MLCP includes scholars who share the aim of revitalizing subordinate languages while stimulating long-overdue dialogue between applied linguists, social scientists and policy-makers, on the one hand and historians, anthropologists and cultural critics on the other. In late 2006, through “Working Group Meetings” we began these dialogues.

The interdisciplinary focus of these working group meetings creates a space for creative engagement between indigenous intellectuals and Indiana University scholars working on issues that encompass indigenous politics, cultural performance and language. The role of ethnic markers in the reproduction of local cultures in the era of globalization is especially pertinent. While global processes tend to erode local cultural forms, those same pressures frequently embolden different forms of resistance, often based on the strategic deployment of essentialized ethnic markers.

In an era of increased global flows of people and capital and the concomitant weakening of traditional forms of nation-state sovereignty, the question of how subordinate languages and cultures might survive (however transformed) becomes extraordinarily salient. Our graduate and faculty research is not limited to Latin American minority languages per se but rather probes all subordinate cultural forms and the larger political and economic frameworks in which they operate.


John McDowell’s research among Quechua speakers

Since the mid 1970s I have been actively engaged in research concerning the Quechua language and the people who speak it. The bulk of this work has concentrated on Inga, the northernmost dialect of Quechua, and the Inga communities in the Sibundoy Valley, Department of Putumayo, of highland Colombia. I have also worked extensively with Kamsá, a language isolate derived from the ancient Quillasinga stock, also spoken in Colombia’s Sibundoy Valley. My earliest Quechua research was with speakers of Bolivian Quechua, and I am currently working with two extended families residing in the environs of Otavalo, in the north of Ecuador, whose members speak the dialect called Quichua. My research falls into the broad category of the ethnography of communication, and I have paid close attention to traditional narrative, ceremonial speech forms, and song lyrics, in an effort to illuminate the role these expressive forms play in personal, social, and political contexts. Read “Características del Discurso Narrativo en Inga” here.

Multicultural Politics in Peru

Shane Greene’s recent work is on the impact of multicultural reforms in Peru on both indigenous and afro-descendant peoples. After several years of research into the history of the Amazonian movement he has expanded his focus to the national level. He is now working on a new project in collaboration with a variety of indigenous and Afro-Peruvian activist organizations. The goal is to document the possibilities and obstacles to ethnic alliance building in negotiations with the multicultural state.

Steve Selka’s work in Afro Brazil

Politics of Culture in the African Diaspora
Steve Selka’s research focuses on the politics of culture in the African Diaspora. He is particularly interested in the intersection of cultural heritage policy, social activism, and the commodification of culture. Accordingly, he is very excited about the 2008-2009 working group on Culture Heritage and Politics. His current research project focuses on the intersection of religion and politics in the festival of Our Lady of Boa Morte (Good Death) in Bahia, Brazil.

Pipil research

The Nahuatl-Pipil Language and Culture CD Project
The Pipil project began in 2003 with Pablo Garcia’s trip to the small town of Santo Domingo de Guzmán in El Salvador. As part of the community’s effort to record and teach their disappearing language, Pablo recorded interviews with some of the town’s last speakers of Nahuatl-Pipil. At IU, we digitized the interviews and created an initial version of a Pipil multimedia language-learning CD. Visit the Pipil page for more information.

Research in Guatemala

Hilary E. Kahn’s research on the Atlantic coast of Guatemala explores how the Q’eqchi’ Maya in Livingston see themselves as part of an enduring, yet ever-changing, network of relations–social and cosmological linkages between deities, outsiders, owners, and other beings who constantly shift back and forth between positions of power, personae, visibility, and meaning. Visuality and its political differentials–whether one is the object of sight or the subject of seeing—ultimately supports the practice and codification of this imaginary model.

See her featured web gallery here for more information.

For a list of past working group events, click here.